CNN outlines additional guidelines for debate simulcast

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With tradition seemingly out the window in the 2024 presidential election debates, CNN has come out with a set of guidelines for other networks opting to carry its live feed of the cycle’s first matchup between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump

Sources close to the event outlined a set of distribution guidelines that CNN has sent to other networks to the L.A. Times. A CNN spokesperson confirmed the accuracy of that report to NewscastStudio. 

The debate airs June 27, 2024.

CNN is asking who opt to carry the live feed to keep its bug on-screen and visible at all times. Other bugs can be added to the mix, but can’t cover up CNN’s.

It also appears that CNN is planning to feature its iconic logo in the background behind the candidates, another prominent opportunity to drive home the point it’s is providing the content.

The rules also extend to exactly what other networks can call the broadcast. They are required to refer to it as the “CNN Presidential Debate Simulcast” in promotional materials. TV listings are required to use the title “Simulcast: CNN Presidential Debate.”

Other rules have already been known for some time.

CNN has barred other networks from using split screens or squeezebacks alongside the live feed to add their own content. Anchors and commentators also cannot appear on-screen or via audio during the debate.


Both of these rules effectively make it impossible for other networks to turn the CNN feed into a unique version of the broadcast.

The other networks can opt to cover the advertisements CNN has sold for the two, 3-minute and 30-second breaks with their own ads or promos, but are also barred from using the time to add commentary or analysis. 

CNN is allowing other networks to use the time before and after the debate itself for this purpose, though there’s likely little it could do to prevent other networks from doing so.

There have been no formal announcements if any networks will take CNN up on the offer to simulcast, though running competing programming during the time may be a futile attempt, especially for cable news channels whose audience is probably more likely to flip over to CNN.

The Times reported that some broadcasters are reportedly pushing back on some of CNN’s requirements.

The network did not address if it has been in talks with other networks or if it is aware of any that have agreed to the terms when asked by NewscastStudio.

CNN, for its part, notes that it is absorbing the entire cost of producing the debate. 

Any broadcasters violating the rules will lose the right to carry the simulcast, though it’s not immediately clear what repercussions could be for doing so, and CNN did not clarify that to NewscastStudio.

Laying out ground rules for carrying the debate, which could be considered to be copyrighted by CNN, isn’t unreasonable or unheard of. From a legal perspective, the right to carry the debate could likely been seen as a licensing agreement — however formal or informal — of sorts that, in turn, has certain limitations and requirements. 

Most news organizations use short clips or excerpts from other networks’ reporting on their own air, typically with an on-screen credit.

For big, exclusive interviews or other programming likely to be included in other broadcasters’ content, many networks will add a prominent network logo to the video clip that anyone using the clip is required, at least under the usage guidelines, to keep visible. 

After the live simulcast has completed, CNN said clips from the debate will be subject to a separate set of guidelines, which are largely similar to others for similar events. These often include limits on how long a single clip can be, how many can be used within a certain span of airtime as well as guidelines or crediting and digital usage.


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